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Lockdown extended and new restrictions: What we learnt from Gladys Berejiklian's press conference.

New rules for NSW as cases remain high.

Greater Sydney's stay-at-home orders have been extended until the end of September, as cases of the Delta variant of COVID-19 remain stubbornly high.

The state recorded 642 locally acquired cases in the 24 hours to 8pm, along with four deaths.

In an effort to contain the spread, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced further restrictions, including a state-wide mask mandate. From Monday, all NSW residents will be required to wear a mask outdoors, except when exercising.

Greater Sydney's lockdown will also be extended for another month, except in Shellharbour and the Central Coast, which will be classified as regional areas. (The regional lockdown is currently due to be lifted on August 28.)

Meanwhile, the 12 Sydney LGAs that have been classified 'areas of concern' will face even tighter rules from Monday, including a nighttime curfew. 

Residents in Bayside, Blacktown, Burwood, Campbelltown, Canterbury-Bankstown, Cumberland, Fairfield, Georges River, Liverpool, Parramatta, Penrith and Strathfield will not be permitted to leave their homes between the hours of 9pm and 5am unless for essential work or emergencies.

Residents in those areas will now only be permitted to exercise outdoors for one hour per day, and additional retail outlets including garden centres, hardware and pet-supply stores will be closed except for click-and-collect.

The state's Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant urged NSW residents beyond those LGAs to remain vigilant.

"Although we are seeing the cases predominantly in these areas, there are also rising cases outside those LGAs of concern. It is important there is no complacency anywhere," she said. "I am asking everyone to hang with us for the next 4-6 weeks. Buckle down.

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"I do not want to be standing here every day announcing deaths."

Australia hits one-dose vaccine milestone as under 40s given Pfizer date.

More than half of Australia's population aged 16 and above has received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine.

The milestone was reached on a record day of immunisations with 309,010 doses administered nationwide as the behind-schedule rollout ratchets up.

But it coincided with a new daily high in local cases which exceeded 750 for the first time during the pandemic.

An explosion of coronavirus cases in NSW continues to fuel national concerns with the state's Delta strain outbreak linked to clusters in Melbourne, Canberra and New Zealand.

There were 681 new infections and one death reported in NSW on Thursday.

Victorian health authorities urged people to remain calm about 57 new cases in Melbourne, with 54 linked to existing outbreaks and 44 in isolation throughout their infectious period.

In the ACT, there were 16 cases as authorities work on driving down cases in Australia's locked down capital.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced all people in the 16 to 39-year-old age bracket will be eligible to receive a jab from August 30.

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Some jurisdictions including South Australia and the ACT already opened bookings for people under 40 leading to a surge in appointments for the Pfizer jab.

Australia has fully vaccinated 28.2 per cent of its population aged 16 and above.

The federal government is also waiting for the expert immunisation panel ATAGI to give the green light for 12 to 15-year-olds to be vaccinated, which could come within days.

First Afghanistan evacuees land in Perth.

The first evacuees from Afghanistan have arrived in Perth as Australia continues a complex rescue operation in the wake of the Taliban takeover of Kabul.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said federal officials were working with the WA government to ensure the evacuees received medical and mental health support.

"This has been a difficult and distressing ordeal for many of the evacuees and we will help them through completing the mandatory 14 day quarantine," Mr Morrison said.

WA has agreed to take in the passengers above the state's weekly quarantine arrivals cap.

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Federal and state police were on hand when the evacuation flight landed in Perth overnight, The West Australian newspaper reported.

Other states will also be asked to help as the evacuation program continues.

On Thursday a further 76 Australian citizens and Afghans with protection visas were airlifted out of the Afghan capital to a base in the United Arab Emirates.

Another 40 Australian Defence Force personnel and provisions were also flown into Kabul to help with the rescue mission.

The latest evacuation adds to 26 people extracted from Kabul during the first flight.

The government has defended offering 3000 humanitarian places to Afghans fleeing the Taliban despite other nations pledging intakes more than six times that figure.

Immigration Minister Alex Hawke expects the initial commitment could rise to 5000 as the situation unfolds in Afghanistan.

World Vision is among groups calling on Australia to create an additional 20,000 humanitarian visas for people fleeing Afghanistan. More than 300 organisations have signed an open letter saying the government has a moral duty to the Afghan people.

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Victoria has 55 new local COVID-19 cases.

Victoria has reported 55 new local COVID-19 cases after health authorities warned strong day 13 testing would keep numbers high.

The health department on Friday confirmed 49 of the cases are linked to known outbreaks, while 25 were self-isolating throughout their infectious period.

It leaves six locally acquired cases under investigation.


COVID Testing Commander Jeroen Weimar said health authorities "still have more work to do" to determine where the virus has spread, noting the next 14 days of lockdown will be crucial.

"We're determined to get to the bottom of every case," he told ABC Radio on Thursday night.

Melbourne is just over two weeks into its sixth lockdown, which has been extended until at least September 2.

Victorians are being warned to brace for another spike in case numbers as more close contacts are due for testing before being released from isolation. 

On Thursday, the state recorded the highest number of COVID-19 cases since last year's deadly second wave after dozens of day-13 tests were returned from isolating close contacts.

"Dressed me like girl scout," says R. Kelly accuser.

A key accuser at the R. Kelly sex-trafficking trial returned to the witness stand, saying the singer often videotaped their sexual encounters and demanded she dress like a girl scout during a relationship that began when she was a minor.

Jerhonda Pace resumed her evidence in Brooklyn federal court a day after telling jurors she was a 16-year-old virgin and a member of Kelly's fan club when he invited her to his mansion in 2010.

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While there, she said, she was told to follow "Rob's rules" - edicts restricting how she could dress, who she could speak with and when she could use the bathroom.

She said Kelly, born Robert Sylvester Kelly, sometimes demanded she wear pigtails and "dress like a Girl Scout" during sexual encounters that Kelly often videotaped.

On cross examination, defence lawyer Deveraux Cannick sought to show that Ms Pace mixed up dates about when she interacted with Kelly and that she deceived him by at first lying about herself.

"You were in fact stalking him, right?" Mr Cannick asked.

"That is not right," she responded.

His questioning fits a theme that defence lawyers have repeatedly pushed early in the trial: Kelly was victimised by groupies who hounded him at shows and afterward, only to turn against him years later when public sentiment shifted against him, they allege.

Ms Pace, the trial's first witness, was among multiple female accusers, mostly referred to in court as "Jane Does", expected to give evidence at a trial scheduled to last several weeks.

Other likely witnesses include cooperating former associates who have never spoken publicly before about their experiences with Kelly.

Anti-Taliban rallies spread in Afghanistan.

Flag-waving protesters have taken to the streets in more Afghan cities as popular opposition to the Taliban spreads, while a witness says several were killed when the militants fired on a crowd in Asadabad in the east.

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"Our flag, our identity," a crowd of men and women waving black, red and green national flags shouted in the capital Kabul, a video clip posted on social media showed on Thursday.

Afghanistan celebrates independence from British control in 1919 on August 19.

A group of people march with Afghan flags during the Afghanistan's Independence Day rally in Kabul. Image: Haroon Sabawoon/Anadolu Agency/Getty. 

A witness reported gunshots fired near the rally, but they appeared to be armed Taliban shooting in the air.

One woman walked with an Afghan flag wrapped around her shoulders, and those marching chanted "God is greatest". At some protests, media reported people tearing down the white flag of the Taliban.

Taliban hunting dissident Afghans: report.

The Taliban have already begun rounding up Afghans on a blacklist of people they believe worked in key roles with the previous Afghan administration or with US-led forces that supported it, according to a report by a Norwegian intelligence group.

The report, compiled by the RHIPTO Norwegian Center for Global Analyses and seen by Reuters, said the Taliban were hunting individuals linked to the previous administration, which fell on Sunday when the Islamist militant movement took Kabul.

"Taliban are intensifying the hunt-down of all individuals and collaborators with the former regime, and if unsuccessful, target and arrest the families and punish them according to their own interpretation of Sharia law," said the report, dated Wednesday.

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"Particularly at risk are individuals in central positions in military, police and investigative units."

The non-profit RHIPTO Norwegian Center for Global Analyses, which makes independent intelligence assessments, said the Afghanistan report was shared with agencies and individuals working within the United Nations.

A Taliban spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the report. Since seizing Kabul, the Taliban have sought to present a more moderate face to the world, saying they wanted peace and would not take revenge against old enemies.

Nicole Kidman avoids Hong Kong quarantine.

Nicole Kidman has avoided quarantine in Hong Kong where she's filming a television series, after receiving an exemption from the government.

The city's government did not directly identify the 54-year old Hollywood star but said it had granted foreign overseas film personnel permission to skip quarantine for "the purpose of performing designated professional work".

The exemption contrasts sharply with entry rules for residents that are some of the most stringent coronavirus requirements globally, sparking online criticism from residents in the special administrative region of China.

Kidman was in the former British colony to film an Amazon television series called The Expats, online news site HK01 reported. 

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She was spotted shopping and filming after arriving from Sydney last week, according to HK01.

Hong Kong arrivals from countries considered "high risk" are mandated to undergo compulsory quarantine for 21 days in a designated quarantine hotel, even those who are vaccinated.

The measures have led to many residents not being able to visit relatives and travel overseas for nearly two years, prompting an online backlash over Kidman's exemption.

Without the exemption, Kidman would have had to do seven days of hotel quarantine.

Massive 400-year-old coral found in Reef.

A massive coral-head formation that predates European explorations and settlement in Australia has been found on the Great Barrier Reef.

In a hemispherical shape, the coral measures 5.3 metres tall and 10.4 metres wide, making it 2.4 metres wider than any other coral measured on the Reef.

Named Muga dhambi (Big coral) by the Manbarra people, the traditional custodians of the Palm Islands, the coral was discovered off the coast of Goolboodi (Orpheus Island), part of the Palm Island group in north Queensland.

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James Cook University Adjunct Associate Professor Adam Smith says the coral, known by its scientific name Porites sp, was discovered by scientists and community members participating in a marine citizen science course.

"Muga dhambi may have survived up to 80 major cyclones, numerous coral bleaching events and centuries of exposure to invasive species, low tides and human activity," he said.

"Despite this, it's in very good health with 70% consisting of live coral.

Around the world.

- US troops may stay in Afghanistan past an August 31 deadline to evacuate Americans, President Joe Biden says. The collapse of the US-backed Aghan government and resulting upheaval has pushed Biden's approval rating to its lowest level so far.

- A man who claimed to have bomb in a pickup truck outside the Library of Congress in Washington DC has surrendered to law enforcement, ending an hours-long standoff in the heart of the US capital.

- A single COVID-19 case in New Zealand has jumped to a cluster of 21 on Thursday, the second day of a new nationwide lockdown.

Ms Ardern's government decided on the lockdown on the basis of one new community case, saying new cases meant "level four was the right decision".

- With AAP

Feature image: James D. Morgan/Haroon Sabawoon/Anadolu Agency/Getty.

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